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Editorial: Great speech, governor, but how about Medicaid expansion?

By Longview News-Journal
Feb. 23, 2015 at 10 p.m.

Most Texans who heard Gov. Greg Abbott's first State of the State speech agree our state's new leader is getting off to a great start.

We concur. Our only wish is that the speech had been just a bit longer.

No, not to hear another anecdote (have you noticed how those have become a crutch for just about every speech-making politician these days?) but to hear Abbott address an important topic he neglected to mention.

That would be expansion of Medicaid in Texas, an issue former Gov. Rick Perry refused even to consider. In this, Abbott has another opportunity to show he is different than his predecessor, that he cares more about Texans than politics. He should tell the Legislature he would consider an expansion plan.

Of course that would be tough for Abbott, just as it was tough for other Republican governors who have expanded the programs for the good of their states. Just as they did, Abbott faces many loud voices from the extreme end of his party who want to keep shouting down common sense on this matter.

Those other governors weathered the storm because they knew Medicaid expansion was the right thing to do.

It's right not just for the individuals who would be served by it - though that certainly is enough reason by itself. After all, Texas continues to have the nation's highest rate of uninsured. It's what needs to be done for the health care of all those and the system itself. Numerous health care providers, particularly rural hospitals, have been crippled in the past several years in large part because of our state's failure to act.

This baldly political decision has had a direct impact here in East Texas, and it is well past time to put an end to it.

Doing so would not require full acquiescence to the Affordable Care Act. A purely Texas system could be devised to accomplish the goal and bring home the billions of dollars Texas is due. Several proposals - including by GOP lawmakers in the last session - have been put forth to begin doing just that. We know it can be done. It already has been in Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin, none of which have governors with great love for Obamacare.

Still, they did what needed to be done for the good of their states.

We never expected Perry to take that action - he is too much of a political animal. But Abbott has shown he is a different sort.

Perhaps he did not include it in his speech simply because he didn't want the expansion to be his idea. Maybe he would be willing to sign such a bill if it could be passed through the Legislature. Unfortunately, that isn't likely to happen unless Abbott signals he wants it.

That doesn't mean this shouldn't be given the best shot possible. As we've said many times in the past, it's long past time to stop playing politics with the health care of Texans.



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